New entry-level occupational therapy doctorate

The Department of Occupational Therapy will transition to an entry-level doctorate program from its current master’s degree program, beginning with its fall 2022 class.

The new program has been granted candidacy status for accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. UIC will learn the decision regarding accreditation in December 2024, in advance of the graduation of the first cohort in May 2025.

The change from entry-level master’s degree to doctorate is a growing trend among universities, said Elizabeth Peterson, OT clinical professor and director of professional education.

Peterson said more advanced practice skills are required due to:

  • complexity of diagnoses and conditions
  • advances in technology
  • mandates for evidence-based practice and data analysis of outcomes
  • the need for program development and health promotion
  • the emphasis on care across continuums and delivery systems.

The change also reflects UIC’s role as a Research 1 university, she said.

“The curricular requirements associated with an entry-level OTD program are well-aligned with the occupational therapy faculty members’ strong scholarship portfolios.”

The full-time program, which takes two years and nine months to complete, emphasizes embedded, real-life learning with case-based courses that cover theory and evidence-based clinical practice skills, leadership and management, as well as fieldwork and a capstone project.

The OT department plans to use innovative teaching methods that include team-based learning, simulation with standardized patients, and social learning models.

“Students will gain advanced knowledge and skills and thus be very well  prepared for the steadily increasing challenges of health care and educational settings,” Peterson said.

More information about the entry-level OTD program is available online.